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How to Build Reading Comprehension Skills

Reading comprehension can make a massive difference between just reading and understanding what you read. This is why building and enhancing your reading comprehension skills is crucial.

Said skills can be developed to various levels, so you should constantly, consciously develop these skills. Here’s everything you need to know about reading comprehension and how to develop yours.

What Is Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is simply your ability to understand or comprehend the text you are reading. This step occurs while you’re reading; however, it also happens before and after you read a text.

It is an active and deliberate aspect of reading. Comprehension allows you to draw meaning out of what you’re reading and fully see and understand what the author of the text is talking about.

There are two aspects of reading comprehension:

  • Vocabulary knowledge

  • Text knowledge.

Vocabulary Knowledge

This is where reading comprehension commences. If you already have a pretty solid vocabulary base, it is easier to understand the meaning of words and generally have sufficient working knowledge for decoding what a text means.

Context is also crucial here to help you accurately predict what an unfamiliar word means — context clues come into play here. If you don’t have a pretty strong background knowledge of vocabulary or learning new words is extra tough, then the comprehension process would be stalled significantly.

Text Comprehension

This reviews the text from a general perspective to understand the concept it tries to explain. Here, you engage with the English text to understand the message it is passing across and precisely what you need to glean from it.

Excellent text comprehension skills imply you can answer questions about the author’s message. You can provide a decent summary of the passage, too. In addition, you can link what you have just read to other areas of the English text or even your previous or prior knowledge.

So, this step elevates you beyond just understanding the message the author is passing, serving as a stepping stone to new levels of critical thinking.

Why Is Building Reading Comprehension Skills So Important?

Building comprehension skills is crucial because it impacts almost every area of life. If you can comprehend what you’re reading properly, there are several benefits to be gained. For starters, you would see significant improvements in your personal and work life.

Also, rather than see reading books as a bothersome chore, you could begin to really enjoy it.

Cracking the code to understand texts can do wonders for your knowledge bank and enhance your ability to learn new skills and assimilate information.

Here are some other perks that good comprehension skills can provide:

  • Massive boost in writing and communicating effectively and with clarity

  • Improved understanding of new information, such as those in newspapers, and an ability to engage and analyze the events

  • More significant motivation to read and a newfound enjoyment of books

  • Understanding, analyzing and comprehensively responding to memos and information passed in the workplace

  • Improved concentration, allowing you to read for longer. You could also have a fresh understanding of prior knowledge.

Strategies for Building Reading Comprehension Skills

Building comprehension skills is a conscious and deliberate process that requires a bit of effort to pull off. However, as with anything, it’s only really tough initially because it’s a new habit. Over time, it gets significantly easier, and you find yourself comprehending texts more and more.

Here are the various reading comprehension strategies to build independent reading skills and enhance your comprehension skills.

Improve Your Vocabulary

Vocabulary implies knowing the meaning of words, which can massively boost your comprehension ability. English texts are made up of random words, and background knowledge of these words allows you to understand phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages and is pivotal to decoding the entire text.

Here are some things you can do to improve your vocabulary:

  • First, take a vocabulary quiz online to see where you’re at concerning your current vocabulary level

  • Practice using new words or new vocabulary both in verbal and written forms as often as you can. Note the phonics, too

  • Explore using flashcards to test yourself on new/ unknown words at least once a week

  • Amp up your active reading; this effectively boosts and enhances your ability to make pretty accurate guesses about what an unfamiliar word means in various contexts.

  • List out strange-looking new words you’ve picked up in books and look them up in the dictionary when you catch a break.

Sometimes, an understanding of the vocabulary can provide a fresh perspective for you regarding what the author meant. In addition, since vocabulary is so broad, don’t restrict yourself to just books. You can go to places such as literary meetups, art events, lectures, or discussions. The broader, the better because you can learn new vocabulary from different industries to help your reading and comprehension.

Read Out or Read Aloud

Reading books aloud is a comprehensive act that engages your hearing or listening skills. It combines both auditory (which is concerned with hearing the words) and tactile-kinesthetic (which is concerned with saying words out) to develop reading comprehension effectively.

Recalling what you have read is easier when you have more than one mechanism of recall to work with. So, beyond the visual aspect, there is the auditory aspect, too. If you’re an advanced reader, use the proper intonation, keep an eye on punctuation, and try to express yourself accurately.

If you’re only just beginning, say, you’re presently at the high school level, take your time with this, and you will get better gradually. Soon enough, you would be doing higher-level reading.

Identify the Text’s Central Idea

Noting the central idea or the main message within a given reading material can enhance text comprehension significantly. Who or what does the text concern itself with? What is their importance in the text?

Once you have identified the subject, you have a solid foundation to understand the key points of the passage. This is how to build up reading skills kids and adults.

Identify the Supporting Details

In addition to identifying the central idea, a solid understanding of supporting details serves as building blocks to overall comprehension. The supporting details can provide context or shed more light on the central theme or character. To do this, simply recall a few details about the text you read—a summary of the summary. This can significantly help to build your active reading skills.

Recognize the Structure and Main Highlights

The entire point of the structure is to follow along without getting lost on the way. Is the structure of your reading material apparent? Does it simply discuss one main topic/main points or feature a beginning, middle, and end?

If it’s a story, there should be a theme, a setting, main character(s), and actions that they are carrying out. Is there a conflict — and what character (s) is the protagonist and which is the antagonist? Analyzing the various aspects of a text this way can aid your understanding and allow you to have a clear image in mind.

To prepare yourself, you can read the back (that should typically have a summary of the main elements in the book), read the introduction, and scan through the book’s pages, noting header titles and reading random sentences. This pre-read is necessary to familiarize yourself with the text.

Section the Text

If you’re having difficulty understanding a pretty tough text, or if it’s too long, then sectioning in the text could be an excellent idea. There is no hard and fast way to section, so you should do what’s best for you.

You could study two to three paragraphs and pause to reflect and summarize in your mind. Sectioning your read allows you to tackle bite-sized sections at a time and improves your chances of really understanding the information present in the text.

Consider Using Organizers

Since the brain processes images way faster than text, integrating graphic organizers into your reading can aid comprehension. Graphic organizers that allow note-taking provide an excellent way to make sense of the main idea and details visually.

When you have determined the main highlights or structure of the text, you can use the corresponding header to detail happenings in the middle, end, or beginning. You can also use the informational organizer to detail points from what you have read.

Writing, which is a form of tactile-kinesthetic learning, helps you to retain better the information that you’ve read. To facilitate this and take it further, read a section and then do your note-taking exhaustively. This would draw on information that may have been shoved in the back of your mind.

You can color-code your notes with colored pencils. If you feel like taking this further, you can use a 5-W organizer — who, what, when, where, why, and how or a compare-contrast organizer.

Go at Your Own Pace

It is crucial to learn at a pace that works best for you to avoid feeling overwhelmed. You would also be able to achieve more milestones because the goals you set are realistic and workable.

This strategy is particularly effective for literature that poses a level of difficulty. You can work with a small daily goal and an overall weekly goal. Instead of doing chunk-size, like trying to finish a book in three days, you can do bite-size, like reading two to three chapters daily.

This reduces pressure, allows you to enjoy the read, and provides processing time in between to reflect on what you’ve read. Similarly, you could consider reading with small groups of other learners or struggling readers. You work together step-by-step to become good readers, and in small groups, you can discuss key points or main points that aid retention.

Answer Questions

A great way to confirm that you’re doing great with reading is to answer questions. This also helps you develop recall skills. According to research, answering a prompt trumps passive reading or listening in learning.

You could look up questions drafted by others on the internet and answer them. In addition to the simple questions, consider those that require critical thinking, too. Make it a habit to answer questions about sections of texts you read days before. This is a compelling long-term memory development strategy.

If you want to draft your questions, you could use different variations of the 5-Ws. For instance:

  • Who is… to the main character?

  • When did … happen?

  • How did … go down?

  • Why did …. do what they did?

  • Where did … happen?

  • What is the book or text’s theme?

  • Who were the central and secondary characters?

You can amp this up to rationalizing a philosophical element or justifying an act that a character carried out in your own words. You end up drawing your inferences and boosting retention.

How Do You Practice Reading Comprehension Skills?

Following the reading comprehension strategies above, you would likely need to set the right stage, especially in the early days of reading comprehension practice. Here are some tips that can help.

Remove Distractions

The presence of distractions implies that you would have to put in a lot more effort to understand what you’re reading. As such, it would be ideal to eliminate all distractions and make the text your only focus.

This could involve silencing your gadgets, searching for quiet spaces to read, and even clearing your head. Doing these allows you to be engrossed in your reading and ensures comprehension proceeds quickly.

Read Texts Multiple Times

Read sentences and paragraphs as many times as you need to understand the message it is conveying. You can slow down to pick them out word by word or even use various tonations to get the real meaning. If any unknown words seem pivotal to the text, look them up alongside the phonics and return to the text. This would aid understanding.

Start Below Your Reading Level

Rather than begin with something that would pose an instant challenge, consider starting from a lower, more manageable reading level. Say high school level before moving on to higher-level reading. This practice lays a solid foundation for your reading comprehension. To determine your present reading level, you can take a standard online quiz.


Building reading comprehension is a process, so you must go easy on yourself. Start small, read texts that interest you, and answer questions about the text. If you cannot answer the questions, reread the English text until you can respond correctly before moving on to the next.

This is how to build reading skills. Remember that it gets easier with practice, and in good time, you will be excellent at comprehension.

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